Philadelphia adds surveillance cameras outside recreation centers

The installation of more than 100 cameras is part of an effort to deter crime.

A worker is setting up a security camera to a telephone poll.

Worker installs camera bracket outside playground. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

City Council President Darrell Clarke on Wednesday watched a technician install a camera outside a North Philadelphia recreation center — one of more than 100 being installed across the city to track those nearby when a crime occurs.

“Frequently we have individuals out on the perimeter literally shooting into rec centers and damaging individuals and in some couple of cases, killing,” said Clarke.

“We had an unfortunate incident where one of our municipal workers was killed recently. Those individuals ran away from the center. We did not have a camera feed that directly saw where they were going.” Clarke added.

Philadelphia recreation centers already have hundreds of cameras inside the facilities, but the ones mounted outside are designed to help police after an incident occurs.

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There have been a number of shootings near city recreation centers, including the 2019 shooting of a 19-year-old woman near Dendy Recreation Center, a mass shooting near Shepard Recreation Center, and the shooting death of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Center employee Tiffany Fletcher near the Mill Creek Recreation Center.

First Deputy Police Commissioner John Stanford said the extra cameras are part of the Safe Play Zone Program.

“Now more than ever,” Stanford said, “we know that the presence of cameras not only acts as a deterrent to those who seek to engage in criminal activity or cause harm within our communities, but they also work to capture so much of the crucial evidence that’s instrumental in prosecuting individuals that commit crime.”

John Stanford speaking at a podium during a press conference.
First Deputy Police Commissioner John Stanford speaks about importance of the cameras. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The installation marked the culmination of the first batch of 13 “Safe Play Zone” camera sites. The locations were selected in collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Department using crime data.

City Council has allocated nearly $5 million for the installation and operation of these cameras in the Five-Year Plan adopted during last year’s budget process.

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The first round of cameras was approved pre-pandemic, but supply chain issues delayed their installation.

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